GAME STORY: Brock rallies past Whitesboro again, advances to Class 3A DI state semifinals

DENTON — Brock was down three to its fiercest District 4-3A Division I rival, Whitesboro, with just under seven minutes left in Thursday’s Region I-3A DI championship game. Prior to that point, the Eagles had mustered all of seven rushing yards in the first half, fumbled away a second-quarter, fourth-down try and winced agonizingly as an errant snap sailed 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage to thwart a promising first-half possession.

Meanwhile, Whitesboro had just taken the lead when receiver Jace Sanders sneaked his way to the sideline uncovered on a fourth and goal play — from the 22-yard line, no less — to seize momentum and threaten to avenge a 39-35 loss to the Eagles earlier this season.

In other words, Brock had the Bearcats right where it wanted them.

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FEATURE: Benjamin sophomore leading Mustangs to historic season

Main photo courtesy of Naomi Skinner

Grayson Rigdon makes playing six-man football look about as easy as anyone can.  

While defenders labor to chase him, the Benjamin sophomore glides around the field. Rigdon even occasionally slows down before hitting the turbo button and zooming past helpless pursuers.  

After leading Strawn to a state title as a freshman, Rigdon’s on track to do the same thing at Benjamin as the Mustangs are in the state semifinals for the first time in 45 years. They’ll play Whitharral at 3 p.m. Saturday with a chance to make history.  

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Big Country Preps’ Pick ‘Em Panel vs. Twitter Polls (Week 15)

Each week here at Big Country Preps, we’ll post our picks for all of that week’s 11-man games and select six-man games, in addition to the results of Evan Ren’s Twitter polls for each matchup.

For those interested in voting, polls go up on Monday night each week.

Disagree with our picks or the Twitter consensus? Let us know in the comments section below.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYOFF FORECAST: Nine BCP teams still alive as we enter December

LAST WEEK: 11-1, .916
SEASON TOTAL: 529-120, .815

As December football arrives so will nine — count’em, nine — Big Country Preps teams retain a playoff pulse and are still hopeful of winning a state championship.

Wylie, Brock, Wall, Cisco, Hawley, Albany, Westbrook, Benjamin and Loraine will all take the field this week.

Not too shabby.

Also doing pretty well: this column, which hit with 91-percent accuracy last week despite a difficult slate of games to pick.

That said, let’s dive into this week’s games.

Here’s this week’s forecast: 

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Albany’s Chapman takes the top spot

Having fought his way through a mid-season injury, Albany quarterback Cole Chapman is back in form. 

Our Big Country Preps Player of the Week was the dual threat we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on Saturday, leading the Lions (11-2) to a 35-18 whipping of formerly unbeaten Wink in the Region II-2A Division II semifinals. 

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GAME STORY: Special teams lift Wylie past Canutillo and into state quarterfinals

FORT STOCKTON — It’s time to hang the “Football in December” banner at Hugh Sandifer Stadium.

The Wylie football team continued its postseason run through the Region I-5A Division II bracket with a thrilling 21-18 win over Canutillo at Fort Stockton’s Panther Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

After the game, Wylie players were quick to admit that they knew the last time the banner went up was in 2016 when the Bulldogs lost 31-17 to Carthage in the Class 4A Division I state championship.

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GAME STORY: Hawley overcomes slow start in 57-26 rout of Sonora

SAN ANGELO — Hawley head football coach Mitch Ables wasn’t happy about the way his team played in the first quarter Saturday in their Region I-2A Division I semifinal playoff game.

He couldn’t complain after that.

Hawley woke up with a 30-point second quarter on the way to a 57-26 rout of Sonora at San Angelo Stadium.

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GAME STORY: Albany capitalizes on Wink miscues in 35-18 win over previously unbeaten Wildcats

SAN ANGELO — With the game still hanging in the balance, the football hit the turf twice in the final minutes Saturday at San Angelo Stadium.

Each time, it bounced Albany’s way.

The No. 6-ranked Lions recovered two fumbles in the last four minutes — including one that was returned 86 yards for a touchdown — to put the finishing touches on a 35-18 win over No. 4 Wink in their Region II-2A Division II semifinal playoff game.

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GAME STORY: Centennial rides big fourth quarter to 24-14 win over Abilene High, ends Eagles’ run in I-5A DI semis

ARLINGTON — The Abilene High football team saw its surprising playoff run come to an end Friday, falling 24-14 to Burleson Centennial in a wet Region I-5A Division I semifinal matchup at Choctaw Stadium.

Despite a tough offensive night on which they were limited to just 169 yards and five first downs, the Eagles found themselves tied with the Spartans 7-7 after three quarters of play. But Centennial scored 17 consecutive points to start the final period, taking advantage of a pair of AHS fumbles — one it returned for a touchdown — to finally put away coach Mike Fullen’s squad.

The flexbone-based Spartans (12-1), who overcame a red zone fumble on their final possession of the first half, finished with 235 yards of total offense, achieving their big fourth quarter despite a modest offensive output of just 64 yards in the second half.

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GAME STORY: Mustangs advance with rout of Throckmorton

SPRINGTOWN — As Benjamin kept scoring on one-play drives Friday night, it became only a matter of time the Mustangs were going to mercy-rule Throckmorton.  

But the top-ranked team in Class A Division II wanted to end things by halftime in its state quarterfinal matchup at Porcupine Stadium.  

That’s why the Mustangs called timeouts on Throckmorton’s final second-quarter possession. It proved to be a savvy move as Grayson Rigdon’s 44-yard touchdown catch with five seconds left put the finishing touches on a 48-0 victory.  

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GAME REPORT: Coyotes dine on Brownwood miscues

ABILENE – The Wichita Falls Coyotes ran the football on the Brownwood Lions like no other team this season during Friday night’s rain-soaked Class 4A Division I regional semifinal game. As a result, the heavily favored Lions’ season ended with a 41-19 loss to the upstart Coyotes at Wildcat Stadium.

Cameron Gould, a two-way ironman at linebacker and running back, rushed for 158 yards and five touchdowns as the Coyotes, who were 3-3 at one point this season, improved to 9-4 and advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2013. Wichita Falls will face District 4-4A DI rival Decatur for the Region I championship at 7 p.m. next Friday, Dec. 2, at Collins Stadium in Denton.

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GAME REPORT: Brock uses rally for the ages to erase huge deficit and eliminate Bushland

VERNON — With 7:39 remaining in the second quarter of Friday’s Region I-3A DI semifinal between Brock and Bushland, the outcome for the Eagles was looking bleak. 

Bushland was not only leading, it was dominating Brock 27-7, courtesy of two TD passes and a scoring run from Falcon quarterback Dawson Jaco. 

What nobody knew, however, was that Bushland had scored its final point. And Brock, like the waters of a tsunami receding prior to impact, was about to unleash something unbelievable.

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GAME STORY: Wall uses ground game, powerful defensive effort to crush Idalou

SWEETWATER — While some may have complained about the cold, rainy weather for Friday’s Region I-3A DII semifinal at the Mustang Bowl, the Wall Hawks had the tools to overcome it. 

Using a combination of 331 team rushing yards and a crushing defense, the Hawks (11-1) blew open a 10-0 game with three third-quarter touchdowns and eliminated Idalou 30-0. 

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FEATURE: Clutch Wylie Bulldogs comfortable with game on the line

It may seem obvious, but pressure situations are described as such because of the increased stress put on teams trying to perform in the late stages of close games.

Playing in “crunch time” is supposed to make things more difficult.

Apparently no one ever bothered to inform the Wylie football team of this.

Continue reading “FEATURE: Clutch Wylie Bulldogs comfortable with game on the line”

GAME STORY: Long, Huston, Gayle lead Cisco to regional finals

COLORADO CITY — A week of uncertainty of when the game would be played due to a forecasted winter storm that was going to stretch from the Panhandle to the Permian Basin didn’t impact the Cisco football team on Friday afternoon.

Playing in a steady rainfall, the Loboes knocked off New Deal 33-14 in a Region I-2A Division I semifinal game nobody was sure would be played until the Lions were able to get on the road to Colorado City’s Wolf Stadium on Friday morning.

Cisco now awaits the winner of Saturday night’s tilt between Hawley and Sonora to see who it will face for the Region I championship.

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FEATURE: Abilene High’s ‘surprising’ run to region semis a product of program’s process, tradition

Of all teams still playing in the Texas high school football playoffs, Abilene High would likely be considered one of the bigger surprises .

Closing the regular season at 4-6, as the No. 4 seed out of District 2-5A Division I, the Eagles weren’t a popular pick to make a deep playoff run. 

But after dominating good teams from El Paso Del Valle (42-14) and Red Oak (35-0) to earn a Region I-5A DI semifinals matchup with Burleson Centennial on Friday, coach Mike Fullen’s squad finds itself in the third round of the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Abilene High’s 2020 squad, like this one, entered the playoffs with a modest record and found its stride later in the year — following a path to postseason success that Fullen has embraced during his time as the Eagles head coach.

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Big Country Preps’ Pick ‘Em Panel vs. Twitter Polls (Week 14)

Each week here at Big Country Preps, we’ll post our picks for all of that week’s 11-man games and select six-man games, in addition to the results of Evan Ren’s Twitter polls for each matchup.

For those interested in voting, polls go up on Monday night each week.

Disagree with our picks or the Twitter consensus? Let us know in the comments section below.

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FEATURE: Wall’s balanced, unheralded defense dominant through a committee approach

WALL — If one examines the statistics of the area’s top high school defenses at this time of year, it is quite common to find at least one or two “stud” tacklers — usually a nasty linebacker with 100 or more stops. 

 But at Wall, the home of one of the best defenses in Big Country this season, a statistical anomaly is currently taking place. Nobody on WHS’ 2022 roster has more than 66 tackles through 11 played games (plus one forfeit) — a genuine oddity considering how dominant the Hawks have been on that side of the ball.  

Instead, Wall is tackling by committee out of its 4-2-5 scheme and doing it quite well, with nine players charting between 43 and 66 stops. 

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FEATURE: Loss of O’Shields a major challenge for Hawley, but there is a glimmer of hope

HAWLEY — It wasn’t exactly the ‘shot heard round the world’, but in Hawley it certainly created a noticeable tremor. 

The loss of do-everything receiver-defensive back-kicker Kason O’Shields had a far-reaching impact on the Hawley roster the moment it occurred on Oct. 29.  

O’Shields, who suffered a broken right fibula early in the second half at Stamford, had made himself so valuable in so many different ways, that his loss was the equivalent of losing six players rather than one. 

“He was our kicker, punter, kicker returner, punt returner and played offense and defense,” Hawley coach Mitch Ables said. “I don’t know how much more you could have a kid do for you, but he was a do-all for us for sure.” 

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BCP PLAYOFF FORECAST: Area football could see as many as 10 survivors in December

LAST WEEK: 21-4, .840
SEASON TOTAL: 518-119, .813

Week 14 is upon us and we still have 13 teams from the Big Country Preps coverage area with a pulse.

And unless my pick percentage suffers a sudden crash, it’s my opinion that no fewer than 10 of our area teams will survive to play into December.

We shall see.

Here’s this week’s playoff forecast: 

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Wylie QB Long leads another thrilling comeback to claim award

With the Wylie football team’s season on the line, facing a 40-30 deficit with less than six minutes remaining, the Bulldogs needed an epic comeback to rally past Colleyville Heritage on Friday at Grapevine’s Mustang-Panther Stadium.

Fortunately for coach Clay Martin’s squad, their senior quarterback has made a habit of leading those this year.

After throwing just his sixth interception on a fourth-down play midway through the final quarter, KJ Long was given new life when his defense forced and recovered a quick fumble. He made the most of it by leading a pair of quick scoring drives — the last to put the Bulldogs 43-40 with three seconds left on the clock — to fuel his team to a wild 50-40 area-round win and earn this week’s Big Country Preps Player of the Week award.

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CLASS 4A/5A AREA ROUND REPORT: Anna ends Yellow Jackets’ season with one-point win

REGION II-4A DIV. I

Anna 33, Stephenville 32 — The Yellow Jackets saw their season come to an end with a heartbreaking loss to the Coyotes in the area round, falling in a game that saw six lead changes, including four in the second half.

After falling behind 14-3 after the first quarter, Stephenville (9-3) rallied to pull within 20-17 at halftime before taking a 24-20 in the third quarter. Anna regained the lead at 26-24 by the end of the third quarter, and the teams traded touchdowns in the fourth, with the Coyotes erasing a 36-32 deficit with the final touchdown with about six minutes remaining in the game.

Continue reading “CLASS 4A/5A AREA ROUND REPORT: Anna ends Yellow Jackets’ season with one-point win”

CLASS 2A/3A AREA ROUND REPORT: Cisco, Hawley, Wall, Brock, Albany advance; Jim Ned, Coleman, Early, Comanche, Santo fall

REGION I-3A DIV. I 

Bushland 28, Jim Ned 10 — Dawson Jaco threw for 217 yards and four TD passes and Baylor King caught four passes for 89 yards and two scores to lift Bushland over Jim Ned. 

The Indians led twice in the first half — 3-0 on a 19-yard field goal by Breydon Walker in the first quarter and 10-7 after a 55-yard run by Troy Doran in the second. 

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GAME REPORT: Abilene High dominates on both sides of the ball in area-round rout of Red Oak

MANSFIELD — The Abilene High football team dominated Red Oak in every way imaginable Friday, routing the Hawks 35-0 in an area-round matchup at Newsom Stadium to earn a Region I-5A Division I semifinals date with Burleson Centennial next week.

The Eagles, who advanced to the third round of the playoffs for the second time in the past three years, outgained Red Oak 472-82, rushing for 413 yards to the Hawks’ 58 in a thorough beating.

Red Oak managed just four first downs against the Abilene High defense, which forced seven punts and a turnover on downs while adding an interception for good measure.

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GAME REPORT: Scrappy Cougars rally but fall short in season-ending loss to Grapevine

FORT WORTH — The Cooper football team rallied from a 17-0 first-quarter deficit and 24-7 halftime hole to pull within three points in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Region I-5A Division II area-round matchup with Grapevine. But that was as close as the Cougars could get in a season-ending 38-21 loss to the Mustangs at Crowley ISD Stadium.

Hurt by five turnovers, CHS still managed to pull within 24-21 on Daniel Bray’s 16-yard touchdown run with 7:19 remaining in the game. And the Coogs had an opportunity to take a lead on their next possession. But they couldn’t finish that drive, and Grapevine closed with two late touchdowns to pull away.

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GAME STORY: Wylie scores 20 points in final five minutes to rally past Colleyville Heritage in area round

GRAPEVINE — After Wylie quarterback KJ Long’s fourth-down pass was intercepted with less than six minutes remaining and his team trailing Colleyville Heritage 40-30, there was a sigh of relief on the home side of Mustang-Panther Stadium.

It was clear from the reaction to Bryson Burgess’ pick that most in the Panthers’ cheering section and on the Heritage sideline thought that was the knockout blow in a wild Region I-5A Division II area-round matchup.

It was also clear from that reaction that those same people hadn’t followed Wylie’s season closely enough.

The Panthers’ hadn’t broken the Bulldogs’ fighting spirit, they’d ignited it. And after forcing and recovering a fumble on the very next play, Wylie sandwiched a pair of clutch touchdown drives around a huge fourth-down stop to escape Grapevine with a thrilling 50-40 win and earn a region semifinals date next week with Canutillo.

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